Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dear This Old House

Dear TOH,

Having just received the December issue of TOH magazine, I want to applaud you for your "How It Works" article on carbon monoxide alarms. Most importantly, with this article you've reminded your readers of the danger posed by an invisible, odorless gas that can kill, while providing them with some interesting facts about CO alarms. However, one fact really struck me. In the article, it states that more than 200 deaths occur in the U.S. each year from CO poisoning. As important as this number is, it pales in comparison to the number of deaths caused by another invisible, odorless gas in all of our homes. Radon gas.

The EPA estimates that 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. each year are caused by elevated levels of radon gas in some of our homes. That number exceeds the combined number of annual deaths caused in homes by falls, electrocution, fires or CO poisoning, yet most homes have code mandated safety features like railings, GFCI outlets and smoke or fire alarms (only 1/3 have CO alarms as per your informative article). In the state of Maine, where I live, one out of every two homes has a radon gas level higher than the EPA recommended mitigation level!

There's a huge disconnect here and our government hasn't done a great job in getting these important words out: Get Tested! It's the only way to find out whether a home has high radon levels. The good news is that if a home has elevated radon levels, it usually can be mitigated to acceptable levels at a reasonable cost.

You folks have an opportunity to perform a great public service by making your readers and viewers more aware of radon gas and how they can get it reduced to acceptable levels, both in new home construction and in existing homes. Please check it out.

Here are some links that I have found useful when explaining radon gas to my home inspection clients:

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/radon/images/rooftops_psa.mpeg (public service announcement)

Thanks for listening and keep up the great work!

Phil Petroska
Harrison, Maine